U.S. Department of State 95/12/04 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, December 4, 1995 Briefer: Glyn Davies DEPARTMENT--Announcement Dayton Peace Agreement Available on World Wide Web......1 VIETNAM Status of Vietnamese Boat People .......................1-4 --Comprehensive Plan of Action .........................1-2 --Qualifications for Entry into the U.S/Interviews .....2-4 --Returnees Treatment in Vietnam .......................4 MIDDLE EAST Travel of Ambassador Ross in the Region ................5 Reported Meetings Between Israeli and Syrian Ambassadors ..........................................5 PLOCCA Report on the PLO ...............................5 --Possibility of Donors' Conference in Paris ...........7-8 Condition of King Fahd .................................6 ALGERIA Elections ..............................................6 EGYPT Reported Irregularities in Elections/Runoff Election ...7 BOSNIA Safety of Serbs in Sarajevo ............................8-9 --Possibility of Mass Migration ........................9 Comments of French UN Commander ........................9-10 MADRID SUMMIT U.S.-EU Meetings .......................................11 --Trade with Iran ......................................11 --New Transatlantic Agenda/Action Plan .................11
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 1995, 1:09 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. DAVIES: Welcome to the State Department briefing. I've got just one thing to say today, and then I'll take your questions.
The State Department is getting modern. The Dayton Peace Agreement is now available -- proof-read and complete -- on the World Wide Web. The complete text of the peace agreement is available on the Department of State's Home Page on the World Wide Web in a special section on U.S. Policy on Bosnia. This section also includes complete texts of related speeches, testimony, statements, briefings, fact sheets, and other material concerning the Balkans.
The World Wide Web address -- and this will take a minute -- is HTTP://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/dosfan.html. Plenty of people are already looking at those documents. I hope with that complete information, others may dip into the World Wide Web and look at it as well.
With that, I go to your questions.
Q There's a story today about U.S. proposals for resolving the lingering problem of Vietnamese boat people. Do you have anything on that?
MR. DAVIES: Yes. I've got something I can give you on that. The issue there is the question of whether we have proposed a plan to address the issue of the Vietnamese boat people who remain in first- asylum camps in Southeast Asia.
The U.S. remains committed to bringing the Comprehensive Plan of Action to a safe and humane conclusion. In this context, we are considering a plan to offer Vietnamese who remain in first-asylum in Southeast Asia the opportunity of an interview with U.S. Immigration and Naturalization officials for possible resettlement in the U.S.
Under the plan, the Vietnamese would have to return voluntarily to Vietnam within a specific time period in order to be eligible for an interview. We're consulting with the Vietnamese Government on the proposed plan.
I think this would involve on the order of 40,000 Vietnamese who remain in what's called first-asylum camps, or first-asylum status in Southeast Asia. Most of those are in Hong Kong.
Q Glyn, what sort of assurances can you offer these people who fled Vietnam that when they return they won't -- something bad won't happen to them?
MR. DAVIES: We're discussing, obviously, this plan with the Vietnamese Government. Part of that discussion is, of course, doing what we can to make sure that this proceeds well and that the Vietnamese who do follow this procedure are given every protection. We're not greatly concerned that there's any danger to these people.
Q What percentage of these people do you sort of anticipate would be qualified for coming to the United States?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know that I could say, not only because I don't really have that at my fingertips but also because they are treated, as I understand it, on a case-by-case basis. So it's difficult to give some kind of projection about how many would be eligible.
Q (Inaudible) that many of these people at one point had an affiliation with the U.S. Government?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think that's necessarily fair to say. I don't know what percentage of the people would have had an affiliation with the U.S. Government. We're talking about 40,000 people who are scattered over a number of camps, not just in Hong Kong but also in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand. That's something I'd be happy to look into for you, but I'm not even sure that at this stage anybody in the U.S. Government necessarily has a good read on this.
Q What's the purpose of the interviews, exactly?
MR. DAVIES: The purpose of the interviews, as I understand them, is to discuss these people's individual situations to see whether they qualify under the Immigration Nationality Act to come to the United States for resettlement.
Q What would they have to do or be in order to qualify?
MR. DAVIES: I would have to go back to the Immigration Nationality Act and the other provisions of the Immigration Service to check that out. I think that's a good question but it's probably best addressed to the Immigration Service.
Q In other words, there's no assurance that if they go back and are interviewed, they then are going --
MR. DAVIES: I don't think this is a guarantee; that's right.
Q You said they're scattered all over Southeast Asia. Is there a larger percentage in Thailand?
MR. DAVIES: No. I think the largest percentage, as I said, is in Hong Kong. More than half are in Hong Kong. In terms of the breakdown, the other four places that I mentioned -- the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand -- I don't know the breakdown of the remaining less than 50 percent.
Q These are people who have not had a previous interview?
MR. DAVIES: These are people who were granted asylum in the first instance by those places -- Hong Kong and the other countries.
Q They haven't been interviewed by the INS yet?
MR. DAVIES: As far as I know, they haven't been interviewed yet; that's right.
Q So, basically, you're offering a U.S. interview as a magnet to get them back to Vietnam, and there's no guarantee whether they can go any place beyond that?
MR. DAVIES: No, no. That's not a proper characterization of what's on offer here. Not at all.
Q Why not do the interviews in the camps then, as you have been doing for years?
MR. DAVIES: We've negotiated with Vietnam a Comprehensive Plan of Action to bring this matter to a safe and humane conclusion. That's why we are considering this plan -- it hasn't yet gained final approval, but considering this plan to offer Vietnamese in these first-asylum countries this opportunity to interview with INS. We might have something more for you once a final decision is made on this.
Q If someone wants asylum and they're in these camps, why not just give them the interview there? Or have you been interviewing them there?
MR. DAVIES: It's my understanding there have been some interviews in the camps, but I don't know what percentage of these people have been interviewed in the camps.
Q What was the mileage to be gained by having them go back to Vietnam where it's potentially risky and once they're there, they can't leave again?
MR. DAVIES: I would disagree that it's potentially risky.
Q Why is that? They don't have the best human rights record in the world, as you all have noted.
MR. DAVIES: If you want to get into the details of what's behind this, I'm more than happy to try to get you some more information about it. What I've got so far is what I've given you.
Q Why is it your understanding that those who have returned to Vietnam has not been mistreated?
MR. DAVIES: I would refer you to our human rights report on Vietnam if you want some specific information about our view of the human rights situation in the country.
Q Can you say that once they go back to Vietnam, they've got to stay if they're not given asylum?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have any information on that. I don't know that's necessarily the case. I don't think it's the United States view that people have to stay in Vietnam. We believe in the free movement of peoples all over the world.
Q How would they get to Vietnam from these camps?
MR. DAVIES: Again, Sid, in terms of the specifics of how this would work, how people would get back, I just don't have anything for you. If you're interested, we can try to develop more information and let you know if anybody has thought the whole issue of how they would get back and so forth.
Anything else on that?
Q Another subject. Where is Ambassador Ross? Is he on his way back to the Middle East now?
MR. DAVIES: I believe Ambassador Ross is in the region. He went out to visit both Israel and Syria. He's having discussions in those two countries, obviously, to try to move the peace process forward.
Q Do you have anything on the possibility, after Mr. Ross comes back, that the Secretary of State will be going to the region?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything for you on that.
Q (Inaudible) a column in the newspaper today which claim that Ambassador Rabinovich and Ambassador Mualem of Syria had secret meetings in Dennis Ross' office over the last couple of months. Can you comment on that?
MR. DAVIES: I can't help you with that, Sid. I haven't even seen the column, so I can't help you.
Q Can you take the question?
Q What about the question? The column, aside?
MR. DAVIES: Why don't I take the question and let you know.
Q Do you have any comment on the GAO report on the PLO's failure to comply with the agreements with Israel and the United States?
MR. DAVIES: I don't believe I do. I know that there was a report issued at the end of last week, the so-called PLOCCA report from the Administration to the Congress, which is the six-monthly update on the PLO. I don't have anything on that specifically.
Q The Chairman of the House International Relations Committee has issued a statement calling on the -- saying that the State Department's Chief Financial Officer last June, in a letter to the GAO, acknowledged failures on the part of the PLO to comply, noting "On balance the report confirms problems that the Department has also encountered, the lack of reliable information regarding the PLO's assets and finances." Can we get something on that later today?
MR. DAVIES: I'm happy to look into it. I don't know if we would have anything for you that soon. But, sure, I can look into that for you.
Q Glyn, do you have anything new on King Fahd's condition? There was quite a lengthy piece in the L.A. Times the other day, saying that he had a stroke, and there are some more reports coming out of the region today suggesting that the United States has sent a medical team over there. Do you know anything about that?
MR. DAVIES: All I can tell you on that is really to refer you to the Palace in Riyadh for an update on the King's health. We're reading what the Saudi authorities are saying about the King. Obviously, we're very hopeful that everything's fine with the King; but what we know about it is that he went to the hospital for some testing, and according to the Saudi authorities that testing has gone well, and we think that's terrific.
Q But you have not been told -- the U.S. Government has not been told that he has had a stroke?
MR. DAVIES: I just don't have anything for you on that.
Q Is that because you can't say or because you don't know?
MR. DAVIES: That's because I don't have anything for you at this stage on that.
Q And what about the medical team that supposedly went there over the weekend? Did a U.S. medical team go there over the weekend?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know if a U.S. medical team went there over the weekend.
Q Would you take the question.
MR. DAVIES: I'm happy to look into it for you.
Q Could you address the increased violence in Algeria after the elections? You know, there was less fighting and then you have an increase in violence and people have been chopped and killed from all quarters of life. Could you address this issue of increased violence after the elections in Algeria?
MR. DAVIES: The United States was encouraged by the turnout that we saw in the elections in Algeria and takes the Algerian President at his word that he will engage in a dialogue with those in the opposition in Algeria. I don't have any comments specifically on any increased violence in Algeria, no.
Q While you are on the subject of elections, in Egypt they're having return or repeat elections the day after tomorrow, and there are many opposition forces or opposition parties who are calling for boycotts or something like that. You addressed this issue last Friday, but could you possibly bring us up to date on what are the expectations there? What do you see there?
MR. DAVIES: Right. That's correct. I guess most of these 400- some seats in the legislature that were up for grabs -- and there were 4,000 candidates, I think, for those seats who presented themselves -- only some of those were finally decided, and we would note that of the persons elected to the legislature, there were more than a dozen who come from opposition parties.
On Wednesday they'll have a runoff election because a lot of those races were too close to call. The election in Egypt had some good aspects to it and some bad aspects to it from our standpoint. It was good that there was a high turnout. It was good that more of the opposition parties presented candidates for election than were presented back in 1990, the last round of legislative elections in that country.
But we noted that there were irregularities in the elections. Some of the opposition parties were denied an opportunity to present their case to the people. There were some difficulties that we noted with harassment, arrests, detention, some trial of political activists and campaign workers, and reported government interference with the election.
If these reports are true, then they would be a direct contradiction, really, with the assurances we've received from the authorities there, to include President Mubarak who instructed his government explicitly not to interfere.
In light of the statements by Egyptian Government officials and their public commitment to free and fair elections, we look to the Egyptian Government now to investigate those allegations of fraud and electoral irregularities, and we trust that they'll all be fully investigated.
Q I have another question on the area, if you don't mind. The donor countries met last Thursday here at the State Department with Dennis Ross before he left, and they were talking about having a conference in Paris the 9th of this month in order to activate or, you know, the countries that have committed themselves to assist the PLO and the Palestinian National Authority to pay their commitments -- financial commitments. What about the conference which was supposed to be taking place the 9th of this month in Paris, the donor countries' conference?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything specifically on that, but we are, of course, committed to working with our partners to find ways to improve the situation economically in that part of the world. That's one the reasons why Secretary Christopher went to the Amman economic summit, which was a well attended summit, and discussed with his colleagues and partners the issue of how to create public/private partnerships, how to combine our efforts in providing aid to the Palestinians and others.
I can certainly look into your specific question about the conference.
Q Glyn, could we ask something on Bosnia?
MR. DAVIES: Sure.
Q Is the United States discussing with the French or other allies whether steps need to be taken to assure the safety of Serbs in the neighborhoods of Sarajevo, which will have to be put under Federation control soon? Does the U.S. believe that there are steps that need to be taken, either to assure the security of those Serbs or to reassure them that they will be safe?
MR. DAVIES: There's no difference of opinion between the United States and France on the peace agreement or its implementation. Obviously, the French have worked closely with us on bringing peace to Bosnia. As a member of the Contact Group, they were there at Dayton all three weeks of the negotiations. They provided strong support as we went forward in reaching the peace agreement itself.
France, of course, will also participate in the Implementation Force with a significant contingent of its military personnel. Sarajevo is in the French zone of the IFOR. That is not an issue that is at all dominating the agenda between the United States and France or indeed all the partners in this effort.
Q Does the United States believe that any steps need to be taken to assure the security beyond having IFOR in place?
MR. DAVIS: The United States believes that the Dayton peace agreement is comprehensive -- both the general framework and the numerous annexes -- and that there are sufficient guarantees there and sufficient guarantees made by the signatories to the Dayton Agreement to take account of any concerns that any of the peoples who live in Bosnia might have.
Q Does the United States expect -- you've seen the articles, I'm sure, predicting that up to 70,000 Serbs may pick up and leave quite soon, and that some of them may burn their buildings before leaving. Does the United States believe anything should be done to prevent this, or that it's not going to happen, that the reports are inaccurate?
MR. DAVIES: Obviously, one of the reasons why we're having these various meetings in the runup to the Paris peace signing and why we will consult after that intensively is to discuss all aspects of the Dayton peace agreement. But we don't see any kind of doomsday scenario for the Bosnian Serbs after the IFOR begins to go in and the Agreement is implemented.
We believe that the Agreement takes good account of all these contingencies, and that the parties to the Agreement will live up to what they've signed up to do, which includes on the part of the Bosnians or the Bosnian Federation providing all protection necessary for Bosnian Serbs who live in their area.
Q Do you think that the Bosnian Serbs are just bluffing about sort of leaving en masse, or do you think -- or will IFOR have some particular role if in fact these people all started a mass migration and burning their houses?
MR. DAVIES: I'm just not going to comment on what seems kind of an outlandish scenario at this stage, which is a mass exodus of every Bosnian Serb or of most Bosnian Serbs from the eastern suburbs of Sarajevo. We don't expect that because we think that they will -- once the Agreement begins to be enforced, come into play, we think that they will be reassured by what they see on the ground when the IFOR goes in.
Q Has the United States protested the comments by General Bachelet?
MR. DAVIES: We didn't have to because the French Government was very quick in coming out directly after he made those comments. They essentially said that they didn't associate themselves with those remarks by the General, that he wasn't speaking for the French Government; and I think Bachelet himself made a statement that was televised along the same lines -- that he wasn't speaking for his government on that issue.
Q I mean, his comments were pretty explosive, and coming from a senior officer like that are you worried that perhaps they reflect deeper feelings within -- despite the fact that France may officially disavow them, that perhaps they reflect deep-seated feelings among the French officer corps or among government officials?
MR. DAVIES: No, we're not concerned about that at all. We have every assurance from the French, both publicly and privately, that they will continue to work closely with us, and we've seen no signs at all at senior levels in the French Government that that's not the case.
Q But if he stays in the job, will the United States have confidence in his ability to perform it adequately?
MR. DAVIES: I think the General's been recalled to Paris, so I`m not sure what his precise status is. But if he does stay in the job, we'll see at that time. It may be that he's in fact been withdrawn from that position, but I don't know for certain. We'll wait and see.
Q Have you asked that he be withdrawn from that position?
MR. DAVIES: No.
Q The United States has not --
MR. DAVIES: Not to my knowledge, we haven't asked that he be withdrawn.
Q Would the United States welcome his withdrawal?
MR. DAVIES: We consider the Bachelet matter closed, and the French Government closed it.
Q Can I ask a related question on Bosnia? U.S. officials have repeated over the last week that in Dayton they got assurances from President Izetbegovic that all foreign forces would leave Bosnia when IFOR went in. Now the first wave of American soldiers has gone in. Is there any progress in the removal of the Mujaheddin from the Tuzla area?
MR. DAVIES: It's probably best on that question and maybe other Bosnia questions to refer you to the Secretary and his party who are in Brussels.
The Secretary, tomorrow, will be meeting with our Alliance partners. There will be press opportunities. I think, in fact, Nick is briefing -- he may be briefing now -- on some of these questions.
So for questions that go deeper into the whole Bosnia issue, it's best that we speak with one voice. Right now the Secretary's party -- the Secretary himself, Nick Burns, and others in Brussels -- are that voice. I'm going to leave it there.
Q You have nothing on that question?
MR. DAVIES: I think it's best that we keep that where the Bosnia action is today, which is with the Secretary of State who is in Brussels.
Q There were some reports in Madrid that there was quite dispute between President Clinton and the European Union over trade with Iran. Do you have anything on that? Is Secretary Christopher pursuing that in his meetings with the Europeans today?
MR. DAVIES: I've got nothing specific to say about a dispute that centers on Iran, or relations with Iran.
Q The Financial Times had an article about it.
MR. DAVIES: The meetings in Madrid, from our standpoint, went very well. Both the agreement on a new transatlantic agenda and the adoption of an action plan that has some 120 items in it -- a joint U.S.-EU action plan with a detailed list of areas for cooperation -- that agenda was the culmination of an intensive study of ways to further strengthen our relationship. The agenda established four key goals with the Europeans. First off, of course, promoting democracy; second, responding to global challenges, the transnational challenges like terrorism and crime; contributing to the expansion of world trade and closer economic ties; and building bridges across the Atlantic by encouraging closer communications, especially among businessmen and others.
I could go on about the benefits of the transatlantic marketplace and the rest of it. Our view of the meeting in Madrid was that it went very well. In a way, it's kind of too bad that the Bosnia issue foreshadowed the great work of Madrid and the conclusion of this work on the new transatlantic agenda which lays out a specific way forward.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:35 p.m.)
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